Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
By Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship and Public Affairs, Microsoft
I am in Bangkok and have been very impressed with the work our local team is doing in delivering needed supplies to people that are still living in water and who have not received any help and many of them are in this situation for two months.
During a natural disaster such as an earthquake, a flood, or a hurricane there is a propensity for many individuals who want to rush out and volunteer their help. Many feel it is their duty to go to the stricken area and help in some way or the other. Most of these folks are not qualified to be responders and eventually become a burden on those that are on site providing relief and assistance.
I have always advised folks to just write a check to a non-profit whose work you believe in and let them provide the assistance needed. Yet I am frankly impressed with the work our team in Bangkok are doing and how much effort they put into this work and what they have achieved. Further for all of the employees who are participating in this work is is a very moving experience and they believe that serving has brought them together as no other experience has.
This was the fifth volunteer effort over the past two months the team has undertaken. They have packed necessities and medicine as well as donated blood at the Thai Red Cross, and made life jackets from water bottles at Flood Relief Operations Center.
However, on Saturday December 3, 2011. A team of 20 individuals; Microsoft staff, their friends, family members and some of our Microsoft headed partners headed to one of the most impacted area in the Nakornphatom Province to distribute flood relief bags to the effected people and families in the area. Many of the folks who participated have their own homes still flooded and are waiting for the water to fully recede before they can clean their own homes.
The area that was selected was some of the hardest impacted. These communities are off the main road have been under flood waters for six weeks and these areas are only accessible by boats – with many of the areas still under 2-3 meters of water. The team worked with a local NGO named 1,500 Mile Foundation to deliver the supplies.
The activity on Saturday was just a tip of major effort from the entire company in which the employees took turn to pack a thousand relief bags, gave cash donation to buy additional supplies to put into these bags. Each bag weighed almost 18 pounds and included rice, instant noodles, Chinese sausage, pumpkin, chili paste and water.
With many of the supplies especially water in short supply, Microsoft APAC in Singapore shipped water bottles and instant noodles. The team spent more than 15 tiring hours to load 1,000 bags from the 38th floor of the Microsoft office building onto the military trucks and then driving to the affected areas and finally rowing the loaded kayaks for over 10 kilometers to the flood victims.
When I spoke to Khun Briathon the country manager of Microsoft Thailand he said this was both physically and emotionally the hardest thing he has done. “After just loading the thousand bags on to the trucks we then had to row back and forth covering over 10 kilometers to get the supplies to the people who needed it most. We passed others in need and it took special courage not to stop and hand the supplies to the first group of affected people. In his mind this is what makes the company so special – in times of need our employees just step up, Microsoft employees from all over the world contributed and urged us on.”
Khun Birathon firmly believes this effort of their local commitment to “Make 70 Million Lives BETTER” mission.
This was an extremely well planned and executed effort which involved a community of partners that stepped up to help execute. This is what made this so special. I continue to be in awe of our employees who always manage to step up to a challenge.
As a young electrical engineer in the 1960s, Tom Deno worked with some of the earliest computers. By the time he retired at age 64, he was a self-proclaimed “technology geek.” But he discovered that, among his peers, he was definitely in the minority. So he decided to do something about it and founded the Claremont Senior Computer Club in Claremont, California, in March of 1994.
“We are now the largest and most successful senior club in the city,” he says with pride. A big part of that success comes from having affordable access to the most up-to-date versions of Microsoft Office and Windows operating systems. Software donations from Microsoft through TechSoup’s donation program make this possible.
“We just wouldn’t be as legitimate — or as popular — if we were teaching our members outdated versions of the Windows operating system and Office, like Word and Excel,” Deno says.
Deno launched the senior computer club with a donated IBM XT and an ad in the local paper. To his surprise and delight, 16 people showed up to the first meeting at the Claremont Senior Center. “Everyone was crowded around our lone computer, looking over each other’s shoulders,” he recalls. “Eventually, we took up a collection to buy an adapter so we could hook the computer up to a 21-inch TV — high technology back then.”
When the club topped 60 members, it moved to a large room at the Claremont Community Center where it still holds regular meetings on Tuesday evenings, in addition to offering an impressive array of guest lectures, classes, and workshops.
Since the club collects no dues —“it’s one of the reasons we are so popular,” says Deno with a laugh, the retail cost of running the latest version of Microsoft Office and operating system on more than a dozen computers would be prohibitive for this small nonprofit. Microsoft’s software donations program enables Deno to keep the club on the cutting edge, while it focuses its efforts on education. “Some of our members have disabilities,” says Deno. “So one of our main jobs is to boost their confidence and make using computers friendly and fun.”
With the help of Microsoft and TechSoup, the Club switched to the XP operating system in 2005 and installed Windows 7 on both the classroom and instructor computers in two phases in 2010. Because so many seniors travel in the summer, the club earmarks July and August to upgrade computers and “rest up the crew.”
“We say we have as many members as will fill two columns front and back on a 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper,” jokes Deno. “We’ve had to increase the font size a bit, but that still means we have around 200 people on our active roster list at any given time.”
About 60 to 70 members regularly show up at each Tuesday meeting to discuss topics ranging from cloud computing to self-publishing, and tracing your genealogy on the Internet. On Friday afternoons, a team of volunteer techies runs a computer workshop to help members get the most out of their personal computers — including assisting with memory upgrades, software installation, and general troubleshooting. On Friday evenings, the club invites members to “Ask the Gurus” their questions. Deno, who is now 79 years old, regularly moonlights as one of the gurus, where he continues to dole out plenty of personal computing tips and tricks.
“We are one of the oldest special-interest clubs in Claremont,” says Deno. “And as we head into our 18th year, we’re still going strong.” Thanks to Deno and a little help from his friends at Microsoft and TechSoup, computer savvy is now more the rule than the exception among Claremont seniors.
Originally posted on Microsoft News Center
Two differences set this classroom apart: the students are visually impaired, and the teacher is a three-hour drive away.
Lowell (Miss Lo to her students) teaches math remotely to students at the Washington State School for the Blind. She uses Microsoft Lync from her Snoqualmie, Wash., home to start a video conference and talk integers with the students in Vancouver, Wash., roughly 140 miles away. The result is a lively, interactive lesson that makes the distance between them an afterthought, she said.
“It is basically like being in a real classroom,” Lowell said. “Lync’s clarity and reliability has improved the teaching experience a lot. The only time we have had problems with Lync is when I lost electricity.”
The Washington State School for the Blind has long embraced technology in the classroom; since 2003, its distance learning program has connected teachers and students throughout the state. This is the second semester the school has used Lync, and it’s been a positive experience for teachers and students alike.
“It makes it easier that if we have problem, we can talk to Miss Lo,” said Chris, a visually impaired student in the algebra class. “And if I get snowed in at home in Spokane, with Lync I wouldn’t miss my class!”
The students sit in a classroom with a webcam and a large display monitor in front of them. Using laptops, screen readers, braille displays and Lync, the students can take notes during the lesson, share their work with Lowell, and get help via IM. With Lync, Lowell can launch a virtual whiteboard where she can write numbers and equations. Student can share their desktops with her so they can work together one on one, or Lowell can share her whiteboard with the entire class and walk them through a problem step by step. And because she can see the students, Lowell knows when they need extra attention or help.
For more on the story about how the Microsoft Lync team came to help the School for the Blind click here.
If you are interested Lync’s accessibility features, check out this blog post.
Are you working with a nonprofit? Why not find out how your eligible organization can receive a software donation from Microsoft.
Originally posted on the Software Enabled Earth blog
By Robert Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft
Microsoft is in Durban, South Africa, this week for the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP17. This year, Microsoft is teaming up with a number of organizations to demonstrate how data visualization tools can help transform our understanding of the world. I have little doubt that we can transform how people make decisions about issues surrounding our environment by providing people, organizations and policy makers with interactive maps and tools which help them better understand how society is using its limited resources.
I am quite excited by a number of the great partnerships we have been working on, which will hopefully contribute to a transition toward a more powerful discussion on environmental issues. Some of the projects we have been involved with include:
The Eye on Earth network is built on the Windows Azure platform and uses Esri’s ArcGIS Online cloud services, providing users with a secure central location for managing geospatial environmental data and the easy creation and sharing of map-based services. The ease of use strikes me as the core issue which will help anyone translate complex data into accessible, interactive solutions that can be shared through the Eye on Earth network.
NoiseWatch is an EEA service available on the Eye on Earth network, and will measure environmental noise, which like air and water pollution has a significant impact on public health. According to the World Health Organization, 20 percent of Europeans are “regularly exposed to noise levels at night that could significantly damage health.” While many of us take for granted the presence of noise in our lives, NoiseWatch empowers the public to understand and monitor noise levels and start to make the link between noise pollution and health impacts. The most advanced of the three Watches in the series, NoiseWatch supports enhanced citizen engagement through a mobile application, available on Windows Phone 7.5, iOS and Android, that can measure location-based noise levels and relay this information back to the NoiseWatch application.
Also at COP17, Microsoft is working with South Africa-based partner Natural Balance, the creator of the Wonderbag, as part of our commitment to supporting sustainable technologies that help people and the environment. Wonderbag is a thermally insulated bag used for cooking. When a cook transfers a pot heated on a stove into the Wonderbag, the food in the pot continues to cook, conserving fuel and reducing the environmental hazards resulting from cooking fires. Microsoft is excited to support Wonderbag because it impacts people locally with better cooking technology and globally by making use of carbon trading. By trading Wonderbag carbon savings on the European Carbon Exchange, the company earns the revenue it needs to sell bags at affordable prices. Microsoft and software development specialist “frog” are leveraging Windows Azure to enable Natural Balance to more effectively monitor and promote the use of the bag.
Combined, these advancements underscore two of our commitments to sustainability. The first is to collaborate with public and private organizations and combine our areas of expertise to solve environmental issues. And, secondly, we are committed to utilizing technology to develop and provide tools and solutions that allow businesses, organizations, policy-makers and citizens alike to understand their environmental impact and make more educated decisions around sustainability.
At Microsoft, it is our belief that these actions are crucial to improving the environment. We will continue creating enhanced technologies and solutions that enable organizations to improve sustainability.
For more information about today’s news, please visit our press release. To view the Eye on Earth network, please click here.
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